Paddling for Clamming
Kayak Tillamook supplies the boats, the paddles, PFD’S (Personal Flotation Device) and the expertise while you slip inside the cozy confines of a sea kayak that allows you to go “Paddling for Clamming.”
Lead guide, Marc Hinz, said that all you need do is show up “dressed for the day,” but he cautioned: “Wear anything but cotton! Our standard mantra is ‘cotton kills’ because it absorbs the water and holds it to next to your body, so it’s bad news. Good news are the synthetics or even wool clothing.”
We timed our visit across Nehalem Bay in Tillamook County during the last hour of the ebb tide.
“It’s my favorite time of the tide and time of the year,” noted Hintz. “There are more visible wildlife like eagles and elk and fewer people around so it fits together well for a unique adventure.”
A slow moving outgoing tide eased our paddling from the Nehalem Bay County Boat Ramp (located just off Coastal Hwy 101 north of Wheeler, Oregon where you should be prepared to pay $3 for a parking permit) on a journey toward inter-tidal mud flats.
Hinz said it was a good time of the tide to be on our adventure: “It’s perfect – there’s just a little bit of outgoing to help move us along. If it’s going out really fast or coming in really fast it’s harder to paddle against the current. On this sort of trip you really want the bottom of the tide.”
Our party traveled to the area at this particular time of the tide for good reason: we wanted to dig our dinner – really! We were after bay clams that most folks overlook or have never heard of called the Eastern Softshells.
As the name suggests, eastern softshell clams are not a native clam species. The bivalve was introduced to Oregon coastal estuaries more than a century ago to jump-start a commercial shellfish industry.
Mitch Vance, a shellfish biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that the eastern softshell occupies a unique habitat niche that doesn’t compete with other more popular bay clam species like cockle, steamer or quahog clams.
As a result and put simply, the eastern softshell doesn’t get a lot of pressure.
The lack of popularity may be the reason for a generous 36-clam daily limit.
That – plus the fact that digging the clams takes effort – and – you should be ready to get dirty. You see, the clams live in a soft sandy, gravelly and even muddy substrate and you must dig down a foot and a half to reach them.
My favorite technique is to dig a large hole and then excavate the sides of the hole outward. The technique reveals the clams where they live.
If you follow the technique you can easily pick the clams off the sides of the ever-growing hole.
But be prepared to get dirty in the doing of the deed, but for me, it’s sort of activity that makes you feel like a kid again!
Vance added that eastern softshell clams can be dug up and down the Oregon coast: “Tillamook Bay, Netarts Bay, down to Yaquina and Coos Bays are all really productive for bay clams.”
Remember that all clammers – 14 years and older - must have an ODFW shellfish harvest license. Each clammer must bring a container for the catch too.
“Everyone should dig their own clams,” added Vance. “And keep them in their own containers. That way we avoid one person digging clams for others. Each person should take part in the recreation.”
In addition, if you choose to paddle your own canoe or kayak, remember that you must purchase/carry an Oregon Aquatic Invasives Species Permit.
The permit is required for boats 10' long and longer.
The annual permits are for sale through ODFW License agents or from their website. One and two-year Tyvek tags are available through the Oregon State Marine Board. An on line form is also available.
“The softshell clams reach 4 or 5 inches in length and the digging of the clams is really just the start. For me, the best part of the adventure takes place in the kitchen where I enjoy cooking the catch even more.
A flick of a sharp knife blade opens the clam shell and then the meat is rinsed off.
I also cut away and clean off the clam’s stomach and its contents. Most of the meat in an eastern softshell clam is found in the neck. I like to use the knife blade to open up the clam neck, so the entire affair lies flat on a plate.
In my kitchen, the clam meat gets a bath of flour – then an egg wash and then another bath of cracker crumbs before it goes into the hot oiled frying pan – I prefer olive or vegetable oil.
Don’t cook the clam more than a minute per side for there’s nothing worse than an overcooked clam.
The cooking of the catch rounds out the day-long adventure – one that’s waiting for you in an Oregon estuary this spring and summer.
The Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife offers an online shellfish map that locates bay clams beds throughout the state’s coastal estuaries – it’s a valuable resource for novice or experienced clammers alike.
“It’s really fun for families to go clam digging,” said Vance. “It’s easy to do, not a ton of gear required and it’s something kids can do too. Plus, you get to eat what you catch!”
CLAM COOKING RECIPE
Eastern softshell clams
bread crumbs, panko or cracker crumbs
salt & pepper
vegetable or olive oil
After removing the clam necks from the shell, peel off the outer brown skin and cut off the black tip. Then "butterfly" the neck so it lays out flat.
Coat the pieces in flour, egg, then bread crumbs (panko or cracker crumbs work well too) and lightly salt and pepper if desired.
Heat oil in a medium skillet until hot enough to fry. Cook clam until golden brown - just a minute or so or they quickly become chewy.
Hot Lake Springs
Oregonians are proud of the pioneering past when families faced terrible hardships, endured long journeys and risked it all with no guarantees.
Grant takes us to northeast Oregon in this week’s “Grant’s Getaway” and visits a family who risked it all for the promise of a new start at a place you can visit called ‘Hot Lake Springs.’
Outdoor moments in Northeast Oregon’s Grande Ronde Valley are stunning and spacious with scenery that takes your breath away –
When you step inside David Manuel’s art studio, it’s clear that it’s the little things that keep the past alive.
Manuel is an artist who owns a love affair with Oregon’s past – like his latest sculpture of the ‘William Price Hunt Expedition.’
Hunt led a group of rugged explorers through this part of Oregon 200 years ago. They were on assignment for John Astor and determined to bring an American presence to the British-dominated region at the mouth of the Columbia River.
“I want to make sure everything that I do tells a story – it’s so important that way – that’s what keeps me interested.”
For Manuel, the journey’s truth is etched in short strokes with a sharp blade across soft clay.
“I spend a lot of time on each buffalo hair too. I don’t like the sharp edges because you can cut your hand on some bronzes with sharp edges. So I create them to overlap and it’ll really shine that way too.”
You may have seen Manuel’s work before – at Portland’s Chapman Square where “The Promised Land” shines as a monumental bronze statue.
Now, his new gallery and studio provide a glimpse to his genius as one of America’s finest artists.
“I love history and that’s what keeps me going! That is why it’s so hard to go home at night too because I get so involved in these pieces.”
But Manuel doesn’t have to go far when he goes home. That’s because he works where he and his family have lived for nearly a decade: Hot Lake Springs.
It is a 60,000 square foot hospital turned hotel that rose above the Grande Ronde Valley floor more than a century ago.
In fact, at one time Hot Lake was center of a ‘good health movement’ that drew people from across the country.
They came by train seeking cures for what ailed them in the mineral hot springs that bubbled up from deep in the earth.
But the place hit hard times - capped by a devastating fire in 1934.
By turn of the last century, the building was ready to fall: holes in ceilings reached to where there should have been a roof, all but two of the 350 windows were broken out and floors falling down and the locals thought it was only a matter of time:
“Everybody thought it was dead,” said John Lamoreau, a former Union County Commissioner. “There was no hope, no chance and some people were skeptical because so many had tried to restore it before and failed. To me, the Manuel family looked like the best hope.”
It wasn’t just a mess, it was dangerous and bulldozers waited in the wings to tear it all down.
It was against this dramatic backdrop that the Manuel family bought Hot Lake in 2003.
Despite a personal cost that would rise to more than $10 million, the Manuel family was ‘all in’ for the enterprise.
David’s wife, Lee Manuel, explained that they risked everything because ‘holding on to Oregon history’ was something they could not let go.
“It was as though this ol’ lady, this ol’ building, this history rose from the ground and spoke to us and then it took on a life of its own. We were drawn into that.”
Today – the transformation is nothing short of magnificent!
The successful Hot Lake Springs Bed and Breakfast boasts 22 stunning rooms, a restaurant and the new Restore Spa that is sure to please any woman interested in rest and relaxation.
Plus, there’s David’s gallery and the bronze foundry where you can watch artisans transform his work into lasting bronze art. Plus, David’s uniquely impressive collection of American Indian artifacts and US Military memorabilia that date to the war of 1812.
Still – for many people it is the promise of rest and relaxation in the “Valley of Peace” while enjoying the mineral hot springs. It is all so hard to resist.
Lamoreau observed that it is a place to soak up one of the most remarkable Oregon pioneering stories of the 21st century.
“Not only do we in Union County give thanks to Dave and Lee, but I think the whole state needs to give thanks for what they did here. They brought this place back to life.”
Rugged Edge of Oregon
Some call it the ‘rugged edge of the Oregon coast’ where the sun and surf meet to leave you spellbound and breathless.
Grant McOmie takes us to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area where in winter – except for surf and wind, the coast slows down – that’s easy to understand – few distractions, few folks around…especially along Oregon’s rugged edge of life.
It’s more than forty miles of central Oregon coastline beginning at Waldport and continuing along a southerly stretch of Coastal Highway 101 marked by steep headlands, jagged volcanic outcrops and jaw-dropping scenic drama:
Oregon State Parks Ranger, David Weisenback, said that the sheer beauty of the place surprises many first timers:
“It is such a beautiful and unique area – you can hike to the overlooks, the viewpoints, across the rocky shorelines. No matter where you travel in the world, this is still one of the most scenic areas.”
In fact, it is so significant and prized a place that 2700 acres of massive Cape Perpetua is designated a National Scenic Area.
Two miles south of Yachats, Oregon you will find the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center and it is open daily.
USFS Manager, David Thompson, noted that atop Cape Perpetua you can turn in any direction for views that surprise and amaze:
“Certainly the coast is the most dramatic the part that captures your attention first,” noted Thompson. “And yet if you turn and look the other way, you’ve got this unbelievably green sitka spruce forest with a wealth of moss and ferns and giant trees – it’s all special.”
The Visitor Center provides a wealth of hiking choices too: over 11 different trails for a total of 27 miles and the wonderful thing is that at one point or another many of the trails inter-connect with one another.
The Captain Cook Trail is wheelchair accessible, leads you from the Visitor Center to skirt the shoreline. At low tide, the trail puts on quite a show as waves crash into rocky crevices and cracks at a place called “Spouting Horn.”
If you wish to wander longer consider the astounding collection of Oregon State Park Waysides with names like Neptune, Ponsler or Strawberry Hill where tide pools invite closer inspection during the ebbing tide.
Nearby, Washburne State Park Campground invites you for an overnight stay where winter campers are welcome in a tent, trailer or r-v.
For those who love to camp, but lack the right gear, Park Ranger Deborah Edwards said to consider renting a yurt:
“Camping in winter can be just as exciting as the summertime, you just have to deal with a bit more rain and a yurt is perfect. You get a bunk bed which sleeps two on the bottom and one on the top, a futon, table and a couple of chairs, plus heat and light.”
Little more than five miles away, another site requires you to take a short stroll on a paved trail and then a quick ride down the face of a cliff for 208 feet in an elevator to reach Sea Lion Caves.
Sea Lion Caves has been an Oregon coastal icon as far back as most folks remember; more than 100 acres of the adjacent land has been in private ownership since 1887.
It’s been a drawing card for the curious,” said Manager Boomer Wright. He explained that the massive cave is largest along west coast and where 250 stellar sea lions are a raucous, rowdy crowd.
“They are very social animals with their barking, crawling over each other and even nipping one another. They are very social animals.”
Wright added that up to 1,000 stellar sea lions use the cave from November through late summer: They are often seen lounging, loafing or just plain sacked out on the rocky interior cliffs or boulders.
Of course, there is the large center rock that we call ‘King of the Hill,’ noted Wright and there is usually quite of a bit of fighting between sea lions to see who gets to rest atop it.”
The stellar sea lions are not the only wildlife species that are easy to spy at Sea Lion Caves. Back atop, keep eyes out for soaring raptors like hawks and eagles that are often seen on the hunt – or flocks of shore birds that dance and dazzle and skirt the surf.
David Thompson said that it is a remarkable scene and one that is often overlooked in winter:
“Without a doubt, it’s the most gorgeous stretch of the Oregon coast with the collection of rocky shores, so the geology, the geography and certainly the forest add up to a wonderful place to relax and wonder and wander if you want a place to decompress.”
Oregon Cider Takes Root
There are some Oregon traditions as old as the territory’s earliest days when pioneers set down roots and planted crops – like the simple apple!
Grant McOmie recently discovered a strong resurgence of interest in Oregon apples that are not only delicious to eat but wonderful to drink as apple cider.
In fact, Oregon’s apple cider business has taken root with a new generation.It is a ‘pressing’ time of year at Bull Run Cider near Forest Grove in Washington County.They are processing apples with names you’ve likely never heard Mendocino Cox, Newtown Pippin, Jonwin or Harry Masters Jersey.
Hundreds of apples roll along a conveyor and get scooped up by the handful, then chopped up and hard squeezed until all the juices run out.
It’s the ‘payoff’ time of year for two young businessmen who are betting that an old industry will make an Oregon comeback.
Bull Run Cider started as fun hobby three years ago for Galen Williams and Peter Mulligan, but it turned into serious business last year when friends and customers couldn’t get enough of the team’s varied Oregon grown hard cider products.
“People are looking for another alternative,” said Mulligan. “We are in the right place at the right time to offer another beverage choice.”
“The craft brew business has really laid the groundwork for cider,” noted Williams. “People are looking for something that has less alcohol than wine, but without the hoppy bitterness of beer. Cider fits that bill.”
It also turns out that cider making is an American history story that’s as rich in nuance and flavor as the apples that made it happen.
Kevin Zielinski, EZ Orchards cider maker, said that America’s love affair with cider started “down on the farm” during the country’s earliest days.
“Cider has quite a heritage,” said Zielinski. “It has a heritage that goes back many centuries before colonial history.”
In Pre-Revolutionary War America, everyone grew apples and made cider as a way to store the fruits of their labor.
Cider was the preferred beverage of the times, but all of that changed by the 1920’s.
“During prohibition, many orchards were taken out that had been used for cider making,” said Zielinski. “After Prohibition, those orchards took many years to restore – plus, there wasn’t as much interest in the beverage because beer and spirits dominated the market; cider has made a slow comeback.”
Zielenski has produced E Z Orchards “Willamette Valley Cidre” for the past decade and he is passionate supporter of the historic resurgence in cider making.
When he began a decade ago, there were half a dozen cider makers across the Northwest. Today, there are more than 30.
He planted 10 apple varieties across 11 acres in 2003, and he follows the French tradition of cider making that dates back centuries.
“Cider is something people can share socially or partner with food and use a product that they are already familiar with – the apple.”
“2 Towns Cider” in Corvallis offers more than a dozen innovative ciders on tap to customers who visit their tasting room. Their craft cider is available in bottles and even cans.
Cider maker and co-owner, Dave Takush, said that consumers are eager for variety:
There’s really a cider comeback in Oregon. People are finding out that craft cider has a place at the table. You can get really sweet, mellow ciders from Normandy or you can get crisp, tangy ciders from England. We offer our own Oregon twist on ciders.”
Back at Bull Run Cider, apple grower Shaun Shepherd advises Williams and Mulligan on the variety of apples they should plant across their farm.
So far, he has planted more than 1100 trees and 60 apple varieties on Bull Run’s four acres. He plans to triple the production in the next couple of years.
“We are not certain which varieties will do best in this climate, so we plant different ones to have a better chance of some doing really well.”
That is the ultimate goal for all cider makers, added Mulligan. Each bottling delivers a deliciously unique product and keeps a centuries-old American craft alive in Oregon: “It is grown here, made here and consumed here and that’s what we’re looking to do.”